When considering what the Town’s Fund means for the towns of Skegness and Mablethorpe, something first must be understood. Simply put, the Town’s Deal for both locations is just that, is a deal.
This isn’t what we are necessarily used to in local government circles. For example, it is not a grant, where the money is simply awarded, or a straightforward bidding process where a decision is made following a tender process.
No, in this case, the resources are earmarked for each town as long as we negotiate well. Between now and the end of October, both settlements have to work up a deal. They have to gather the best hand they can in terms of projects and make their case.
If the Government likes what they put on the table it will take the deal, or part of the deal. On the other hand, if it doesn’t, it will be a no-deal – well almost. There is an opportunity for a further two months to re-submit if the Government and Towns Deal Board have enough confidence in each other to play again.
The pot is set at an initial £25 million. This is the standard amount Government has to offer. However, we want to use this money as an incentive to get businesses and other local organisations involved. With their resources to hand, we hope to raise the stakes to £50 million overall or still more – using local investment to double the money available from the Town’s Deal.
We also intend to use the opportunity to make this process with the Government more than simply one hand of cards. Whilst £25 million sounds a lot, in the overall scheme of our ambitions it is small. Those ambitions go as far as looking 30 years ahead with a vision for both towns.
This vision will help level them up and put them in a much more advantageous position than they’ve ever been before. This involves getting all those organisations who have a role in the quality of life issues in Skegness and Mablethorpe involved.
Right now, we are determined that in cutting this deal we will be playing to all our collective strengths. Once the deal is closed and if everything goes according to plan, the Government will look over the detail from November to January 2021 to offer us a Heads of Terms.
The Heads of Terms sets out what we are going to commit to over the next year to get the deal in place. At the end of this process, we have a further five years to commence operations and make sure we deliver. Some projects which are primed and ready to go can get up and running during this first year of negotiation. Others will run over the next five years. Others may run for an even longer period. However, Government support is likely to run out by 2027.
The Plans setting all this out will be given the grand title of the Town Investment Plan. There will be two plans; one for Mablethorpe and one for Skegness. The rules of the deal are set – 90% of the money has to be spent on buildings or equipment.
The money also has to build the skills and enterprise strength of the towns, improve their physical layout and improve their connectivity. We have also been dealt a hand which will be prized highly if delivers a green agenda and if it helps chart a new positive path out of the impact of the current pandemic.
When £25 million for each of our coastal towns was announced many of us pinched ourselves to check it was real.
As we’ve got to understand the ambition of the Government and the hopes of local people for what might be achieved, it has become clear that there is absolutely everything to play for here. The course is bound to be fraught with changes and unpredictable elements, but what an opportunity to be involved in.
How often do towns in our region get to set out this amount of financial planning?
By Ivan Annibal, Rose Regeneration.